1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Orlando Predators at Tampa Bay Storm
Kicking Off...For the 16th time, the Arena Football League's two most bitter rivals will be at each other's throats when the Predators stalk their way 85 miles southwest on Interstate 4 to the Ice Palace to face off with their long-time nemesis, the Tampa Bay Storm. Both teams are banged up even after only two games, but the Predators face a huge hurdle with the absence of quarterback Pat O'Hara. The signal-caller from USC tore ligaments in his ankle on the last play of the first half of a 32-31 loss to Arizona last week. In his place will be rookie Scott Semptimphelter or veteran Brad Lebo. Lebo threw the winning touchdown pass in Orlando's 40-39 defeat of the Storm last July. The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that Predator coach Perry Moss is expected to go with Semptimphelter.
The Coaches...Orlando - Perry Moss, 57-27 record in seventh season with the Predators, 76-31-1 record in nine AFL seasons.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 30-4 in three seasons with the Storm, 85-16 in nine AFL seasons.
In 1997...Orlando (1-1) - Defeated New York 50-42, lost to Arizona 32-31.
Tampa Bay (2-0) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19.
Predators to Watch...WR/DB Barry Wagner - It's obvious to say he's a player to watch---after all, the Predators' media guide devotes over six full pages to his exploits. But is there any denying his impact on any game the Predators play? With injuries reducing his 1996 season to just nine full games, he still accounted for 1,338 total offensive yards, 34 touchdowns, 33 tackles and five interceptions. He's still at it again in 1996, with 181 total offensive yards, 42 more yards on returns and four touchdowns. However, he may be a tad rusty after the offseason break, as evidenced by several dropped passes in last week's loss to Arizona. Interestingly, Tampa Bay was the only team to muffle Wagner in 1996. He didn't play in the Preds' 63-42 loss at Tampa Bay (5/18), but he was fully healthy for the return match at the O-rena on July 19. He never got into the flow of the game, though, thanks to a superhuman performance by Storm defensive specialist Johnnie Harris, who was assigned to shadow Wagner throughout the game. To put Harris' performance into perspective, consider that Wagner played in nine full games during the regular season of 1996. In eight of those games, he broke the 100-yard barrier in receiving yards and scored at least one touchdown. His averages for those eight games were 10.9 catches, 156.1 yards and three touchdowns. Against Harris and the Storm, he caught just three passes for 29 yards and no touchdowns as he never managed to break open. Assuming Harris---who is still nursing a pulled groin---is able to play, the Storm will ask him to do as he did last year: Stop Barry Wagner.
QBs Brad Lebo/Scott Semptimphelter - Who will be the starter? Early reports say it's Semptimphelter, who was waived by the Dallas Cowboys in training camp the last two years. He was deactivated last week as Moss made the decision to alternate the two quarterbacks as No. 2 backup to O'Hara. Last week, it was Lebo's turn to back up, and he was forced into service when O'Hara tore ankle ligaments. Lebo got off to a rough start, throwing interceptions on three consecutive drives. However, two of those picks came on tipped balls and could not be blamed on the second-year player. He finished 9-of-18 for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
Semptimphelter and Lebo both have experience with Tampa Bay, however. Semptimphelter completed four of seven passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in Orlando's 51-34 preseason win over the Storm. Lebo completed three of six passes in the same game, but he also has regular season experience, including the relief effort against the Storm last year. Lebo started seven games last year---five for the Memphis Pharaohs before being waived and two for the Predators. If Semptimphelter indeed gets the start and flounders in what will be his AFL regular season debut, look for Moss to pull the quick hook and go with the more experienced Lebo.
DS Chris Barber - Although he didn't join the Predators until the eighth game of 1996, he made an immediate impact. By the end of the season, he led the club in tackles and passes defensed, and finished behind only Wagner in the interceptions race with four picks. Along with former Storm defensive specialist Corris Ervin, he helps set the tone for the Orlando defense.
Noting the Predators...Battered Quarterbacks - The loss of Pat O'Hara for two to four weeks thanks to a severe ankle injury may hinder the Predators' chances in Saturday's game. But losing a quarterback is not new for Orlando. Since Ben Bennett went down with a knee injury in the tenth game of the 1994 season and was replaced by Duke Tobin, Orlando has seen quarterbacks miss games on five separate occasions due to injury. Among injuries to Bennett, O'Hara and third-stringer Russ Young in 1995, the Preds have lost 15 man-games to injury at the position, including 13 since the middle of the 1995 season. O'Hara's absence from Saturday's game will add another dark lining to this unyielding cloud of injury and bad luck that has hung over the Preds' quarterback position for nearly three years.
Baumann's Blues - For Orlando kicker Charlie Baumann, it's been a week he'd like to forget. First, he missed what would have ben the tying extra point with no time left in the Preds' 32-31 loss to Arizona last week. Now, he's been supplanted in the starting lineup. Although he was healthy in last week's game, the Predators placed Baumann on injured reserve. Meanwhile, they recalled former Albany kicker Franco Grilla from the injured reserve list.
Tampa Bay/Orlando Connections - Storm OL/DL Flint Fleming came to the Storm from the Preds; he played for Orlando for two seasons (1995-96)...Orlando QB Pat O'Hara (injured) was a 10th-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1991 and served as backup quarterback throughout the 1991 season...Orlando DS Chris Barber played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1992...Orlando DS Corris Ervin started seven games for the Storm last season before being waived to make room for Johnnie Harris. He was immediately signed by Orlando and started the Preds' last six games...Preds OS Jeff Parker spent 1992 on the Bucs' developmental squad.
Noting the Storm...Statistically Speaking - Tampa Bay ranks first in scoring defense, tied with Albany, allowing 24.5 points per game...In total defense, the Storm is second behind the Firebirds, allowing 195.5 yards per game...WR/LB Stevie Thomas ranks second in the AFL in yards receiving with 206 yards and third in catches with 16...George LaFrance is fifth in the league with 13 receptions...QB Peter Tom Willis' passer rating of 146.7 is good for sixth in the league...The Storm ranks fifith in the league in total penalties with 20, but is ninth in penalty yardage with 77.
Howard's End - Storm coach Tim Marcum announced Wednesday that the Storm had acquired WR/DB Anthony Howard off of waivers from the Florida Bobcats. Howard, who played for the Storm from 1991 through 1993, when he was traded to the Charlotte Rage for FB/LB Les Barley, has spent time with the Rage, the Connecticut Coyotes and Bobcats since the trade. He becomes the only player on the Storm roster to have played in the team's opening game vs. Orlando on June 6, 1991. He caught nine passes for 117 yards in the 51-38 loss. Until acquiring Howard, Tampa Bay had only 23 players on the roster and did not need to waive or trade anyone to make room for him. "I think he will help us in the third receiver situation," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.
McKinnon and Barley Chase the Record - FB/LBs Les Barley and Cedric McKinnon rank second and third, respectively, on the AFL's all-time rushing list. Barley rushed five times for 19 yards last week, giving him 236 carries for 783 yards on his career. He is now 54 yards behind all-time leader Major Harris. McKinnon, who was deactivated, stands pat with 735 career yards on 194 carries.
Injury Front - DS Johnnie Harris (groin) and WR/DB Antoine Worthman (hamstring) continue be day-to-day with their injuries from last week. Harris sat out the second half of Wednesday's practice...OL/DL Kent Wells (back spasms) and FB/LB Cedric McKinnon are also hampered by injuries. However, none are serious enough to place anyone on the injured reserve list.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On Preparing for a Different Predator QB... - "Their offense is the same regardless of who's quarterbacking. It's just a matter of doing what we do, and doing it well."
On His Monday Eye Surgery... - "It's 20/20 in the left eye...But I'm supposed to wear something [a pair of plastic wrap-around sunglasses] to protect them in case something were to hit them."
Series History...The series began on the first weekend of the 1991 season, when the expansion Predators met the relocated Storm, who had spent the previous four seasons in Pittsburgh as the Gladiators. Tampa Bay and Orlando have met twice a year in the regular season since then, and the series is split down the middle at six wins apiece. However, the Storm has won two of three playoff meetings. Tampa Bay has won five of the last six in the series, and has won four straight at home. But home field has been of little significance in the history of the series. In eight games against the Storm at Orlando Arena, the Preds are 4-4. Meanwhile, the Storm are only 4-3 against Orlando in the Tampa Bay area. The first four games in the series were won by the visitors.
For a look back at the wild history of the Storm-Predators series, check out our story on the history of the rivalry.
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